I don’t know how many years Sonic has been open here in the United States, but it seems to have become an American institution. At least in the South, it might be the last of the drive-ins, and like the restaurants of yore, you pull up to a stall with a big menu and a big red button that you push. A disembodied voice comes to you almost immediately through the speaker and asks to take your order. No matter what you order, the voice would like to know if you would like tots with that. Sonic is one of the few places that I know that actually offers tater tots as part of their menu fare. Then, usually unbelievably quickly, a skating (yes, SKATING) car hop comes out to your car with your order. You can drive away, or you can sit and eat your order there.
Sonic has been a part of my life since I was a child. It was one of the big cruising spots where I grew up, and it was not unusual to see the place packed on Friday and Saturday nights. I was not immune to the novelty of this and I decided I too would cruise the Sonic. My father collected antique Chevys, and I was not yet old enough to be embarassed about them. He was currently driving a 1960 Chevy station wagon, white, two-ton, with red interior. V-8, of course. The thing looked like a giant white hearse. My mom, dad, and best friend were in the wagon (I callled it Christine) one Friday night and I persuaded them to take us to the Sonic for an ice cream. Little did they know my nefarious plans. (Mua ha ha). As we drove around the Sonic looking for a station to park in, there were older kids laughing and honking their horns at each other as they cruised the drive-through. “Honk the horn,” I told my dad. “I want you to honk the horn.” “Absolutely not, said my proper mother. “We will not be honking any horns.” Having had my grown-up cruising plan crushed, I quicked rolled down the window and yelled out of it. “HONK,” I yelled. “HONK HONK!” My friend and my mother promptly slid down in their seats. I had people looking at me! I was cruising!
Sonic continues to have some of the yummiest fast food around. And they do awesome things with ice cream and drinks. Sonic became a big part of my life again when I was pregnant with my daughter. I became ADDICTED to their fresh fruit lemon-berry slush, size Route 44 (read, giant 44 ounce). I got one of those damn things nearly every day while I was pregnant. That stuff is manna from the heavens, people. If you have never had a lemon-berry slush, I urge you to go get one immediately. There are frozen strawberries and fresh cut lemon slices in the bottom. The taste is AMAZING. I don’t even want to think about how much sugar they put in there. I just persuaded myself that it was NATURAL, what with all that fresh fruit and whatnot.
The first time my daughter went to Sonic she was days old. I had been trapped in the house alone with a newborn for days, as my husband decided that my time off from work was time for him to do some of his consulting on the road. Now, my daughter hated her car seat. She hated the car. She hated her stroller. She hated the summer heat. She was, in fact, a nightmarish colicky child, and I needed a break. I decided to brave the screaming that would ensue if I put her in her car seat and by God, I was going to Sonic for a slush! It wasn’t all that far up the road. By the time we arrived at the Sonic, however, the screaming was at a fever pitch and there was no distracting her from her misery. I was shaky and weak and I had postpartum depression, and when I pulled up to the Sonic, I burst into tears. I was a terrible mother. I was forcing my child to ride in the carseat in the car when I clearly knew she hated it, just to gratify myself and get myself a slushie. After sobbingly ordering my drink, I hopped out of the driver’s seat and went around to the back seat of the van to try to comfort my daughter. At this point, the carhop arrived with my drink. And she knew me. “Hi, Dr. Beadstork!” she said cheerfully. I could see her looking me up and down, at my bloated red tear-covered face, at my bloated post-baby body and at the screaming little baby in the back and I could just tell she thought I was a terrible mother too. At the very least, she thought I was losing my mind, which in fact I was. It is amazing the craziness that goes through your mind when you are a brand-new mother and those hormones are raging and you haven’t slept in days. In retrospect, it was crazy that I felt guilty for going out for a slushie, but at the time…
I took my daughter to the Sonic for the first time for a slush when she was about three. She decided on green apple (NOT a fresh fruit variety) and I ordered it for her along with my giant lemon-berry concoction. Now, if there is one negative thing Sonic is notorious for, it is their flimsy styrofoam cups. I know multiple people with children who at one time or another, have had their kid ram their straw right through the bottom of the cup to release an entire slushie into their laps and the car seat. I did warn my daughter about the cups. I DID. But she was only three, and sure enough, that straw went right through the bottom of that cup. Bright neon green ran right through the bottom and into her lap, and all over the van. She was wailing about the cold and about the loss of her slushie. To shush her I let her slurp out of my Route 44 lemon-berry slush (whilst carefully holding the cup so she could not push the straw through it). To this day there are green stains on the rug of my van. One strike to Sonic for the flimsy cups.
My latest Sonic obsession: chocolate malts. Now I love a good chocolate malt about as much as I love anything. Never mind that they are about three thousand calories apiece. I have travelled the world tasting chocolate malts, and the Sonic malt is the best that I have found. It is better than Dairy Queen, and that is saying a lot. It is so thick you need a spoon to eat it. It has real whipped cream on top – not that fake stuff that Dairy Queen uses. And the large is SO large that even I can’t finish it. Wow. I can’t say enough about those chocolate malts. And they go really well with fried mozarella sticks.
Another good thing about Sonic is their specials. They are always having specials. Shakes and malts are half-price after eight PM. I have never felt the need to have one that late at night, but if I do, I will know exactly where to go. Sometimes when I get a breakfast burrito, they have two for the price of one. That is not necessarily a good thing, because I will always take the free one if offered. Also, before four PM every day is the drink happy hour. I can get a 44 ounce slushie for a dollar and some change!!
Sonic definitely has a dear place in my heart and has since I was a kid. If you have never been to Sonic, you owe it to yourself to pull up over there, introduce yourself to a skating carhop and order some tots and a malt. See you there! I’ll be in stall number two.